CitroÃ«n succeeded in making its come-back on the African continent, which had been for long the "playground" of the Zx Rallye-Raids. The Xsaras of Thomas RÃ¥dström and Sebastien Loeb stand seventh and ninth tonight, after they demonstrated...
Citroën succeeded in making its come-back on the African continent, which had been for long the "playground" of the Zx Rallye-Raids. The Xsaras of Thomas Rådström and Sebastien Loeb stand seventh and ninth tonight, after they demonstrated their potential speed, in spite of having to adapt themselves to the rough Kenyan terrain.
The first leg of the Safari Rally started at dawn from Nairobi this morning, heading to the single service Park of Suswa, located in the Kedong Valley, 85 km North West of the Kenyan capital. Before the start, all drivers forecasted a very tough rally but they underestimated it, as illustrated by the volume of mechanical problems experienced by most competitors.
In the first special stage, Ngema, 76 km long, the Citroën team could verify that both Xsaras could compete with the pace of the fastest. Thomas Rådström proved it by setting the second fastest time. Sebastien Loeb was performing well too in that stage. His split time gave him the second position, until he hit a rock after a left corner with the front right wheel.
In SS2, Seyabei (81 km), Thomas also encountered problems. After he damaged the track rod in a deep hole, 25 km from the finish, the Swede rejoined the service park with a front left wing almost empty of its components. The mechanics did an excellent job on the car which left twenty minutes later completely repaired.
Il Damat (SS3 - 74 km) was the next stage. "It's like hell", indicated Sebastien. "After a fast first section, the track becomes rougher and rougher, and the last twenty kilometres are basically ploughed up". At the 45 kilometre mark he was the fastest. But like his Swedish team-mate and other competitors, the Citroën driver had dampers problems which forced him to slow down to reach the end of the stage.
"If I only look at the performance itself", judged Guy Frequelin, "we can be satisfied. Our cars demonstrate a good behaviour. The suspensions is working well, but is suffering a lot. Everybody drives too fast, our drivers as the others, and everybody has problems. Thomas and Sebastien have to find the right pace, which guarantees a problem-free stage" Both crews followed the advice. The cars went through the final stage of Ntulele (106 km) with no technical incident, even if Sebastien was victim of a double rear puncture almost at the finish.
Total, Michelin, Magneti-Marelli, OZ, AIS and Citroën Financement are Citroën's partners in the World Rally Championship.